Virtual events saved the day for countless businesses trying to stay relevant and connected during an extended period of uncertainty and isolation. But beyond just a means of damage control, transitioning live events online has resulted in considerable benefits for organizers and participants alike that might just stand the test of time. Moving events online called for some out of the box thinking in regards to event innovation that really gave event planners an “aha moment”. Plenty of the learnings can be introduced back into live events as well as it taught us how to extend our reach and talk to different audiences simultaneously. Aha!
As we settle into a new “post-pandemic” era, event planners and organizers are experimenting with hybrid events. With the option to attend in-person or online, hybrid events also offer various benefits that live and virtual events separately cannot.
Confused about whether you should go virtual or hybrid for your next event? Here is what you need to know about each approach and how to make your next event even better than before.
Related: EVENT PLANNING GUIDE: HYBRID STYLE
What is a Virtual Event?
A virtual event is an online gathering that allows people to engage and interact in the same virtual space. Virtual events can be as simple or as elaborate as you make it, from online meetings to a multi-day, global affair. They can use a combination of live streaming and pre-record content to inform online audiences or incorporate a more involved platform with advanced features like trade booths, breakout sessions, and conference tables.
Hosting a memorable virtual event that makes an impression above and beyond your average webinar requires the same energy and attention as planning for a live event, plus some extra agility. Creating meaningful engagement and networking opportunities throughout a virtual event presents more of a challenge for organizers. But with the right creative techniques and digital tools, hosts can create an interactive experience that extends way beyond a computer screen.
Are you trying to plan the perfect hybrid event? Van Wagner explains why you’ll need professional help!
What is a Hybrid Event?
A hybrid event combines a live event, where a group gathers in the same physical venue with a virtual audience that joins online. Again, a hybrid event can be as simple or involved as you need, but your goal is to provide an equally dynamic experience for both audiences.
As you’ll discover, hybrid events have a number of benefits for organizers and participants. However, the planning and implementation process is more complex, requiring you to simultaneously integrate strategies for the live and virtual components.
Selecting the right virtual event platform is key, equipped with digital tools to incorporate audiovisual tools, gaming activities, and other resources needed to keep your online attendees actively engaged and connected with your live participants throughout the event.
Benefits of Virtual Events
Virtual events have much more value than just a back-up strategy for their live counterparts. One of the most obvious benefits is convenience. Virtual events eliminate the need for participants to travel, book accommodations, and block out longer than necessary time out of their schedule. They can simply log in and join your event from the comfort of their home or office.
Which leads to the second benefit: increased attendance. Virtual events attract a much larger audience, as well as in-demand speakers with busy schedules. This is appealing to sponsors and exhibitors, as well; They have even more opportunities to connect with participants and promote their products and services on the virtual platform without the added travel and lodging expenditures.
And, of course, there is the huge bonus of reduced expenditures for organizers, as well. Virtual events eliminate event spending on venue charges, catering costs, on-location staff, and the other costs associated with live events.
Benefits of Hybrid Events
Hybrid solutions are gaining popularity for a good reason– offering the best of both live and virtual worlds with added benefits that neither can offer on its own. With many of the same benefits as virtual events, hybrid events greatly increase participation rates while lowering costs for hosts and virtual attendees. But hybrid events also provide a richer experience so that everyone involved leaves with more knowledge and resources than they would at a standard live event.
Live event programming is enhanced with virtual technologies that can create even more opportunities for engagement and networking. Technologies like live chats and tag-based exchanges encourage in-person virtual interactions. And dedicated virtual event communities provide a space for participants to connect and exchange contact information.
Hybrid platforms also give both live and online participants easy access to resources and session recordings during and after the event, enabling them to revisit and share the content they found most valuable.
How to Host a Virtual Event
When planning a virtual event, there are some key differences from planning a live or hybrid event to keep in mind.
Choose Your Streaming Platform Wisely
First, you want to define what you are trying to achieve with your event and then choose a virtual event software that can accommodate those goals. In other words, a Zoom call might work for a work meeting, but it’s not going to cut it for a major product launch.
Plan a variety of creative ways to hold your audience’s attention and inspire natural, meaningful exchanges with and between participants. Using features like gamification and live polling can add a fun twist to a meeting or conference. You can also throw in an element of surprise with live entertainment or a round of trivia.
Plan for technical Difficulties
A technical mishap is another element that could prove to be a show-stopper…literally. Regardless of how advanced your software is, you need to make sure to test all your equipment and links ahead of time and make sure you have tech support at the ready before and during your event.
How to Host a Hybrid Event
Hosting a hybrid event requires the same virtual strategies listed above, with some minor tweaks, and of course, the whole “live” component as well.
Your Platform is Your Virtual Superpower
Since you will be juggling two audiences at the same time, you need a platform that can manage all the components of your event seamlessly, from ticketing and registration to facilitating participation and networking across the physical, virtual divide. Do your research, or even better…
Consult a Virtual Event Production Company
Virtual event production companies can support the production process in whatever capacity you need- from helping you choose the best virtual platform to train your speakers to take the planning process off your plate entirely.
Bridge the virtual-live audience gap
Hybrid events need strong hosts and a dedicated moderator who can guide conversations and provide virtual guests with the same value and level of engagement as the physical attendees.
Looking to host a hybrid event for your next meeting or conference? Van Wagner is ready to help you create a memorable meeting for all your clients and employees!
The pandemic might have forced online events upon us, but that doesn’t mean they are the lesser option for event organizers. As outlined above, there are multiple advantages unique to virtual and hybrid events that can mean a significant change for the better, not only for your business and strategic goals but also for your guests’ overall experience. With careful strategic planning, some creative techniques, and the perks of cutting-edge technologies, you can create a uniquely transformative experience for every attendee, near and far, virtual and live.